Renewed interest in the deeper and older plays of the Paleozoic sequence encouraged Geological Survey of the Netherlands, part of TNO (TNO–GDN), and the British Geological Survey (BGS) to join forces and set-up a large-scale cross-border study called ‘Paleo-Five’, primarily focusing on source-rock potential and tectonostratigraphy of the Paleozoic in the five-countries area of the Southern and Central North Sea.

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With hydrocarbon exploration in the mature North Sea region moving beyond the classic petroleum systems of the Permian, a renewed interest has developed in the deeper, older and less accessible plays of the Paleozoic. Promising results from precursor studies encouraged the GDN-TNO and the BGS to join forces in a large-scale cross-border exploration study into the Paleozoic petroleum potential of the five-countries area in the Southern-Central North Sea. This is the ‘Paleo-Five’ project.

The study area of the ‘Paleo-Five’ project

Synchronizing country-specific stratigraphic schemes

Geological maps resulting from regional exploration studies generally terminate against country borders, leading to mismatches and confusion in cross-border approaches. With this in mind, synchronizing the country-specific stratigraphic schemes is a prerequisite for unraveling the depositional history of the Paleozoic in the five-countries area.

Pre-Westphalian source rock

An important but poorly understood aspect of the Paleozoic petroleum system is the pre-Westphalian source rock. Recent large-scale exploration studies of BGS and TNO demonstrated prospectivity within the Carboniferous and Permian sequences, but at the same time left many questions unanswered. The overall goal of the new ‘Paleo-Five’ project therefore was to establish the spatial and temporal details of the Paleozoic depositional system in the five-countries area.

Emphasis was put on understanding the various aspects of pre-Westphalian source rocks. Our analytical toolbox consisted of cross-border log correlations, sedimentological fieldwork to provide new palynological analyses, and organic geochemical analyses (e.g. closed pyrolysis). The study was further supported by a regional framework of seismic interpretation and optional gravity/maturity data.

Landmark project

With  sixteen E&P companies sponsoring the project, all of them with a keen interest in the Paleozoic of the Southern-Central North Sea, we firmly believe that ‘Paleo-Five’ will be a landmark project for current and future exploration efforts focused on the Paleozoic of the North Sea.